State Supreme Court to hear case about florist who refused to se - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

State Supreme Court to hear case about florist who refused to sell flowers to gay couple

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RICHLAND, WA - The State Supreme Court will hear oral argument on Tuesday, November 15th at 9:00 a.m. at Bellevue College's Carlson Theatre in the case in which a Benton County Superior Court judge ruled in 2015 that a Richland florist violated the state’s anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws when she refused to sell flowers to a gay couple for their wedding. 

Curt Freed and Robert Ingersoll were refused service by Arlene’s Flowers because they are gay. The ACLU-WA is representing Freed and Ingersoll in their lawsuit against the Richland florist for violating their rights.

“Religious freedom is a fundamental part of America. But religious beliefs do not give any of us a right to ignore the law or to harm others because of who they are. When people gay or straight, black, brown or white go to a business, they should be treated equally and not be discriminated against,” said Kathleen Taylor, ACLU of Washington Executive Director.

The Washington Law Against Discrimination guarantees the right to be free from discrimination in public accommodations based on race, creed, national origin, sex, and sexual orientation, among other characteristics. Thus, it prohibits businesses that are open to the general public from refusing to sell goods, merchandise, and services because of a person’s sexual orientation.

The florist appealed the ruling directly to the state Supreme Court. Civil rights groups, LGBT groups, large and small businesses, faith groups, and bar associations have submitted friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the couple.

Having purchased goods from Arlene’s Flowers on many occasions, Robert on behalf of the couple approached the florist on March 1st, 2013 to arrange for flowers for the event. However, he was told that the business would not sell the couple flowers because of the owner’s religious beliefs.

Fearing further discrimination, they stopped planning for a big wedding and ultimately decided to have a small wedding at their home.

“We were very disappointed to be denied service by Arlene’s Flowers after doing business with them for so many years. Planning our wedding should have been a joyful time in our lives, but instead we were hurt and saddened by being rejected for who we are,” said Freed and Ingersoll. “We respect everyone’s beliefs, but businesses that are open to the public have an obligation to serve everyone. We brought this lawsuit because we don’t want other couples to go through the experience that we did. We appreciate the support we have received from people across the globe.”